Homage to Bach: The Solo Violin Sonatas (Arranged for String Quartet)

Brodsky Quartet

Homage to Bach: The Solo Violin Sonatas (Arranged for String Quartet)
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Homage to Bach: The Solo Violin Sonatas (Arranged for String Quartet)

Brodsky Quartet

The set of six sonatas and partitas for solo violin is widely regarded as one of the summits of Bach’s output as a composer, and of the entire repertoire for the violin. With this new album the Brodsky Quartet give us the opportunity to hear some of this legendary music in an entirely new way, in these world-première recordings of Paul Cassidy’s arrangements for string quartet of the three solo sonatas.

Writing about this project, Paul notes: My daily practice invariably involves spending some time with Bach’s Six Solos for Violin without Bass Accompaniment (Sei Solo â Violino senza Basso accompagnato). I am a devout being and these are my bible.

As in the case of all holy books, the six solos open themselves to an infinite variety of interpretations, but whatever your approach, these miraculous pieces are endlessly cleansing and enriching for the body and soul, a balm for the spirit. Their challenging pages abound with multi-faceted characters whose succinct purity is a wonder to behold. They can move imperceptibly from being uplifting and euphoric one minute to heart-breaking and tragic the next.

Review

Some people just like making life difficult for themselves. Paul Cassidy, the violist of the Brodsky Quartet must be one of those people. He’s taken three solo violin sonatas by Bach and, using just this single line with implied harmonies and articulations, rearranged them for string quartet. I’m not quite sure how to explain the difficulty of Cassidy’s endeavour; to use a metaphor, it’s like being given a single strand of rainbow cotton and being told to weave a masterpiece.

I know many people in the classical music world are obsessed with purity of performance, but since Bach was a big believer in ‘borrowing’ and rearranging both his and other people’s music, I love rediscovering his genius through the lens of a modern arrangement. What really comes to the fore as I listened to this album was how stylish these arrangements were, with Bach’s organ music echoing through all the meatier moments. The depth of sound in the recording gives it the proper church-inspired Bach element. I love that the Brodsky Quartet refuse to observe the status quo and instead are constantly looking for new ways to experience life and music.


Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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